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News Roundup; Jason Bay's Contract, and More

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The Beaver County Times has a roundup of some Pirates news that isn't being reported elsewhere.

-Josh Sharpless is apparently healthy, and he pitched a few innings in the Florida Instructional League. If he really is healthy and back to his minor-leaguers-can't-touch-me 2005 form, the Pirates should add him to the 40 man roster. They need bullpen help, and I see no reason Sharpless couldn't be every bit as good as anyone they could afford on the free agent market. If he's healthy and the Pirates don't protect him, he'll almost certainly be taken in the Rule 5 draft.

-Brad Eldred was named Player of the Week in the AFL, although his overall numbers are still nothing to get excited about, given the context of the league.

-The Pirates think that if Neil Walker can handle the move to third, he could be starting for the Bucs in 2007. I think his bat could probably handle that, but I wonder whether he can learn a new position that fast and continue to develop at the plate. Either way, his progress so far has been excellent, and it's wonderful that we're even able to talk about him starting in the big leagues at age 21.

-The Pirates are supposedly working on a four-year contract with Jason Bay for around $16 million. The Pirates would essentially be paying about $15.6 million for 2007 through 2009, since they have the right to pay him the league minimum last year. This seems fair, given current marketplace trends:

In 2004, Adam Dunn hit .266/.388/.569, compared to Bay's .306/.402/.559 in 2005. The Reds bought out Dunn's first year of arbitration eligibility for $4.6 million. He'll likely make even more next year, and by the end of the 2006 season the Reds will very likely pay much more than $16 million for production similar to Bay's. The only upside for the Reds is that if Dunn falls off a cliff, the Reds don't have to continue to pay him. (However, given their respective skill sets, Bay seems likely to age better than Dunn.)

After a 2002 season in which Pat Burrell hit .282/.376/.544 at the age of 25, the Phillies signed him to an enormous contract that pays him $50 million over six years. (Burrell was awful in 2003, although he appears to be back in the saddle now.)

Lance Berkman, who posted slightly better OPS+s than Bay in a much better hitters' park during his mid-20s, made $21.5 million during his arbitration-eligible years.

A $16 million contract for Bay, therefore, seems reasonable. The Pirates assume some risk, but Bay is an elite hitter who is athletic and good at making contact. I think, therefore, that he's very likely to continue to perform well in the next four years. If he does, he'll almost certainly make less under the contract than he would if the Pirates took him to arbitration each year.